As bodybuilders, or simply as individuals trying to increase your lean muscle mass and size, you will already be well aware of the many benefits associated with following a healthy and balanced diet rich in natural protein. As far as protein sources go, ideally you want to go with leaner, more natural sources, which is why many cuts of meat are ideal. Chicken for example, is absolutely ideal, which is why chicken is a staple part of many bodybuilder’s diet. Chicken for a bodybuilding is both a blessing, and a curse simultaneously. It is considered a blessing because it is naturally low in fat and calories, it is versatile and can be used in a number of different dishes, and above all else, it is a fantastic source of protein, which is vital for muscle growth and repair. It is considered a curse however, because bodybuilders will consume that much of it, and so frequently, that they will be sick of the sight of the stuff, not to mention the taste. As they consume so much of it, more often than not they will cook it in exactly the same way, which, more often than not, will require the chicken, usually in the form of a skinless breast, to be grilled until dry and overcooked. Whilst low in fat and high in protein, it is far from inspiring and is certainly not a food you look forward to eating. To help make your chicken taste great, take a look at these 6 helpful suggestions.
When bodybuilders or fitness enthusiasts consume chicken, they do so because it is lean and low in fat. Because of this, when they cook the chicken, they’ll use no oil, or a very light low cal cooking spray for fear of excess calories and fats. If you use a healthy oil-based marinade however, there are certain ways of cooking your chicken that will allow it to take on all of the flavour and moisture, without the oil it has been marinating in. Olive oil, fresh chillies, herbs, and various spices work fantastically well with chicken. Simply add the oil, the chicken, and your spices and herbs to a zip lock marinating bag, give a good shake, and leave to marinate as long as you can. If you grill the chicken, it will lose virtually all of the oil, whilst keeping those amazing flavours. If you use a pan, make sure to drain away the oil once the chicken is cooked, and hey presto.
If the thought of using oil for a marinade is not filling you with confidence, why not choose a healthier marinade instead? Rather than using oil as your base, why not choose vegetable stock, chicken stock, vinegars, or natural fruit juices? Again, add the liquid to a bag or bowl, coat the chicken well, add herbs/spices/seasonings, and leave for a few hours and cook as usual. You can even use canned chicken and vegetable broths, providing they’re natural and healthy. Lemon, lime, and citrus juices work very well because the acids help to breakdown the tough muscle fibres of the meat, making it moister and more tender.
Before grilling, frying, or baking your chicken, rather than using plain cuts, make sure that you generously season both sides of the meat. Salt and pepper are both essential, though you can also use other, dried herbs and spices, or even some grated lemon, lime, or orange zest maybe. You can season chicken in advance, but make sure that you don’t add any salt until just before cooking. The salt will naturally draw moisture from the meat, and as you know, a dry chicken breast is darn near inedible, so add the salt right before you cook the meat.
A temperature probe
As mentioned, dry and overcooked chicken can be, tough, stringy, inedible, and about as exciting to eat as flour and water. A lot of people tend to overcook their chicken because they’re scared of undercooked meat for fear as bacteria and salmonella, which can cause food poisoning. To help ensure that you cook your chicken just right you should invest in a temperature probe so that you know for certain, whether your meat is cooked, or not. Chicken breast should be 170 degrees F, whereas a whole cooked chicken should be 180 degrees F. With a probe, you know as soon as the chicken is safe to eat, which will prevent you overcooking it and drying it out.
Leave the skin on
We all know that crispy chicken skin can taste pretty amazing, but sadly, that is where the chicken holds the majority of its fat. Because of this, bodybuilders and people trying to stay in shape will opt for skinless cuts of chicken, or they will remove it before cooking. In reality, cooking chicken with the skin left on is perfectly healthy and perfectly fine, and will make it taste so much better. The skin will help lock in moisture and will help to gently steam the flesh, which again, prevents it from drying out. Before you eat the chicken, remove the skin, and if you would like, dab the meat with a paper towel to soak up any remnants of fat.
Brine your chicken
Brining chicken can give a superb flavour that is both moist, and flavoursome in the process. A brine is basically a salted water mixture that acts as a marinade and helps to improve the moistness of the meat. It does this as the mixture actually hydrates the cells of the meat, via a process known as osmosis. To make a brine, simply add half a cup of brown sugar, and half a cup of salt to a gallon of water and completely immerse the meat right away. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 3 hours, and be sure to thoroughly rinse the mixture away with clean, fresh water right before cooking.